A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that President Donald Trump's third attempt at a travel ban is likely unconstitutional, writing that it "continues to exhibit a primarily religious anti-Muslim objective".
In a 9-4 vote, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said it examined statements made by Trump and other administration officials, as well as the ban itself, and concluded that it is "unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam". In October, a Maryland federal district court ruled against the ban taking full effect, prompting the government's appeal.
The most recent iteration of the ban bars people from eight countries - six of which are predominantly Muslim - from coming to the U.S.
After federal courts struck down the president's first two attempts at a travel ban, Trump on September 24 signed the latest set of travel restrictions.
Because that case is pending before the justices, the latest ruling from the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals will not change the current status quo.
President Donald Trump's tweet referring to an apocryphal story about bullets dipped in pigs' blood being used against Muslims resurfaced in a court case challenging his travel ban.More news: VA Secretary Says He Regrets Expensive European Trip On Taxpayer Dime
The third version must be judged based on the "context of the investigation and analysis that the agencies acting on the president's behalf have completed, the consultation that has taken place between the president and his advisers, and the logical conclusions and rationale for the proclamation that are documented therein".
"Plaintiffs here do not just plausibly allege with particularity that the Proclamation's goal is driven by anti-Muslim bias, they offer undisputed evidence of such bias: the words of the President", Gregory wrote. Supreme Court justices are expected to hear arguments concerning the ban in April, and rule on its constitutionality in June. The latest version bars or limits entry by people from Iran, Syria, Chad, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. "The Constitution prohibits government actions hostile to a religion", Wang said.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge Paul Niemeyer said the 4th Circuit's ruling was an attempt to "second-guess USA foreign policy, in particular, the president's discretionary decisions on immigration, implicating matters of national security".
In December, in a sign that the Supreme Court may be receptive to upholding Trump's latest order, the court allowed it to go into effect as the two cases moved forward. As it did in striking down an earlier version of the ban, the 4th Circuit's opinion issued Thursday said the ban violated the Constitution's prohibition on religious discrimination.
The ruling was the second time the 4th Circuit has rejected a travel ban. In their decision, the court cited President Trump's own words, including his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos and dissemination of conspiracy theories about Muslims.